The Good Old Days: Grandparents and Thanksgiving

Kempton was always known as the small town with the big heart; the town of my mother’s family beginnings; her grandparents, my grandmother who had passed away in 1958, aunts, uncles and my great aunt, Lulu Pearl. My earliest memories of Kempton were on Thanksgiving Day at Aunt Lu’s two bedroom corner, blue cottage neatly painted in white trim. A vegetable garden was meticulously maintained in the back with her specialties of beets and tomatoes while well-trimmed shrubs surrounded the foundation of the home.

Coming from the city, my immediate family was always the first to arrive while Aunt Lu called the others to join us on her believe it or not box phone with crank and real receptionist named Jenny. That gave me plenty of time to cut out the latest Betsy McCall and her clothes. After the rest of the family arrived, we took our places behind the long table in the dining room eating from her blue willow dishes. Pumpkin pie was always her winning recipe.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break is Grandparents Day at school; a wonderful time for those traveling to see their grandchildren. For our district, Grandparents Day is usually one of the biggest attended events with just grandparents…not sons or daughters who have kindergarten or early elementary children. Just for Grandma,  Grandpa and Grand friends…sometimes Aunts or Uncles if Grandma can’t attend. Over 300 attended today. Many become new Grandparents on that day for children who do not have a guest. A study out of the University of Oxford found children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.

Though she never learned to drive, Aunt Lu would find her way to our house in the city by my cousin every summer. I could always count on a game of Yahtzee every time I offered and she always made the best fried potatoes in town. Because of unpredictable weather, the winter months were generally confined to her little town in Kempton but one year she came to stay and had arrived two days after Christmas. It was unusual for her to venture out in the cold months but my father was in the hospital. Children were not allowed to visit during the 1960’s and Aunt Lu felt she could help.

During her first night’s visit, the phone had disturbed our usual game of Yahtzee and after that I found that Aunt Lu could offer so much more than games. It was a nurse from the hospital; my father had passed away. Though I was 12 and tried to be adult, Aunt Lu let me cry as long as it took, keeping her arms around me, never tiring or disturbing me from my tears. What incredible timing for Aunt Lu’s calming patience in such a terrible storm. Ten years later, Aunt Lu passed away after passionately celebrating her 90th birthday with her family.

Today, I appreciate the towering strength she provided that day and the strenuous days that followed; never perceiving the no pomp and circumstance woman as one of the most salient women I was blessed to know. And I try to follow her loving example everyday reminding myself that every tragedy as has a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Over the river and through the woods

For me as a child, it was a combination of singing the song in elementary school. It was a tune that could not be forgotten easily and once sung…the song would be constantly playing in your mind as a Thanksgiving celebration throughout the next holiday season. I also read the poem in a book partnered with an illustrated painting by Grandma Moses. At a young age, I was always fascinated by her story that she became famous artist as a senior citizen. Her primitive paintings were always something I thought I would copy….even today I try…since I loved her country scenes. When I was nine, I received my first book of her paintings.

The poem was originally published as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day”  and written in 1844, Lydia Maria Child. And it was not about going to Grandmas house but Grandfathers.The poem was eventually set to a tune by an unknown composer.  Lydia was a well known author during the time leading up to the Civil War. She wrote a periodical for kids and popular books for housewives with tips to help manage their households. In 1835 she wrote The History of the Condition of Women in Various Ages and Nations that was later an inspiration to women suffragists.

In 1833 she published An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans, which called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves which did not make her popular.

According to Wikipedia, the original piece had twelve stanzas, though only four are typically included in the song. The verses in bold are the ones I and my family remember:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

The following verses appear in a “long version”:

Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,[1]
and thus the news he tells.

What ever happened to sky blue?

The other day some of the kindergarten students were drawing a hopscotch game on the playground. When you get to the giant circle that was the number 10, somebody said they thought you die and go to heaven. No…I had to correct them even though now there are tons of different rules and regs for hopscotch. When you reach the circle, you yelled sky blue. I don’t know about others but when I am reminded of this game, the only words I can think about is SKY BLUE. But the children of today did not buy it.

Many neighborhood friends when I grew up played hopscotch together. When I was little, like 4 or 5 years old, the older kids would draw the chalk games on the sidewalks in front of our homes. Using a rock to roll to the basic numbers of 1 through 10 and skipping on each number with one foot but picking the rock up with your hand on the block(number) you rolled to. Now, we did not get creative as the game does suggest today. The rules can include   calling out “one foot”, “left foot”, etc. Children also have to hop backward to return, which requires the reversal of numbers. Depending on the rules of play, children may need to call out the numbers as they land on them.

An ancient form of hopscotch was played by Roman children in the 17th century. The original courts were much longer.There are many other forms of hopscotch played across the globe. And in some games, sky blue becomes plum pudding or cat’s cradle according to the English.

Make a cardboard game for indoor fun and by doing so in the example, you actually separate the letters with longer spaces in between to help build coordination and fun. Its a wonderful way to learn how to hop on one foot or two which is exactly what kindergarten students are learning in physical education classes. You can actually purchase indoor hopscotch games.  Learning Carpets 79” by 26” Hopscotch Play Carpet is available on Amazon in different patterns. No chalk required! Toss a stone, coin or bean bag and hop your way through the numerical maze.

The next time I see a hopscotch diagram being draw on the playground, I am just adding sky blue in the top circle whether they like it or not. That is why I am one of the playground supervisors at recess!

The Addams family: Through the decades

Morticia was my favorite Halloween costume and growing up in the 1960’s, the original series was just fun. Watching madly in love, Gomez, speaking in Italian, kissing his wife’s arm, was my first opportunity to watch true love between a wealthy monster couple. Far more realistic than the Munsters. Gomez and Morticia,along with their children, Pugsley and Wednesday, were human with crazy cousins and horrifying looking servants like Lurch. In 1964, a live-action television series, starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones, premiered on ABC , only airing for two seasons.

Subsequently, the series inspired a 1977 television film with the original cast. Another Addams Family movie was created in 1991;  American supernatural black comedy film based on the characters from the cartoon created by cartoonist Charles Addams and the 1964 TV series produced by David Levy. Directed by former cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld in his screen directing debut, the film stars Angelica Huston, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Morticia Addams. In 1993, Adamms Family Values was another sequel film featuring many of the same cast members as in 1991. Both received nominations for Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Hugo Awards. The films inspired a second animated series (1992–1993) set in the same fictional universe but with Astin reprising his role as the voice of Gomez. It was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards, including one for Astin.  In 1998, the Adamms Family Reunion was launched. In 2010, The Adamms Family also become a Broadway musical.

Currently, an Adamms family video is creating a stir among millions of little ones. The video is sponsored by Go Noodle, a collection of videos for children recommended by child experts that engages movement and mindfulness; at home or at school. My current kindergarten class absolutely loves the Adamms family video and asks for it constantly; following the dance moves they see. That is where Wednesday and Pugsley dance to the same silly song as I did in front of the television set, snapping their fingers. My group really tries to snap along with them; some choose clapping instead but they do show me when they are successful snappers.

On October 11th, The Addams Family (2019) will be available; an upcoming American 3D computer-animated comedy horror film based on the comics of the same name by Charles Addams. The film is directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, and will star the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, and Allison Janney. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley and Uncle Fester square off against a reality television show host.

Promoting compassion, confidence and solutions

Its almost 20 years that Hope’s Front Door has been open to clients seeking assistance in the six communities of Darien, Downers Grove, Lisle, Westmont, Willowbrook and Woodridge. Many have no idea that there is an urgent need in the Western Suburbs for emergency assistance for families and individuals in crisis. DuPage County is considered economically rich in salary and property value but over 6.7 percent live below the poverty level evaluated in 2017. According to recent statistics, homelessness has improved, but the need for help with other living expenses is greater. Hopes Front Doors  continues to provide relief; helping assist in transportation, food and medical/dental vouchers and, most importantly, they try to emphasize how clients can make long-term, sustainable changes for the future.

Hope’s Front Door programs include the Pathways to Financial Health that provides budget counseling and handling financial crisis. Volunteers from several local banks meet one-on-one with clients to mentor and educate them on such issues as saving and debt management. Their Pathways to Employment program provides recruitment events and job coaches; the latter that will help structure your resume or provide interviewing tips. Information about local job openings is available by signing up for the HFD Weekly Job List. Their Health and Wellness program gives clients the chance to receive emergency dental care or special housing for medical purposes. Prescriptions and eye exams, or even eye glasses can be obtained with help from Hope’s Front Door.

Hopes’s Front Doors annual school supply donations fundraiser has begun this summer with the great partnership of the Downers Grove Junior Women’s Club. Backpacks are needed. Look for donation baskets at the following Downers Grove drop-off locations now through August 12th:

Drop Off Sites:

*Important reminder: Hope’s Front Door can only accept new (not used) supplies.*

In September 2020, Hope’s Front  Door will be celebrating 20 years of serving our neighbors in need. Cocktails for a Cause Kick-Off Event will be held September 14th to fund Hope’s Front Door’s emergency/immediate assistance services, education/empowerment programs and upcoming 20th Anniversary Campaign activities. There will be exciting raffles and silent auctions as well as sponsorship and underwriting opportunities. Larry Mowry, ABC7 Chicago News meteorologist, will MC this fun-filled evening.

We hope you can join us!

Saturday

September 14, 2019

6:30 p.m.

At the home of Rhonda & James Gaw

8738 Ainstree Lane, Burr Ridge, IL

$75 per ticket

To purchase tickets go to the Cocktail for a Cause website page http://www.hopesfrontdoor.com/cocktails-for-a-cause/

Hope’s Front Door 1047 Curtiss Street, Room 610 Downers Grove, IL 60515 Phone: 630-322-9803 Fax: 630-241-3224

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 10:00am-11:45am; Monday evening, 6:30pm-8:00pm

CLOSED ON TUESDAYS

Send an email: info@hopesfrontdoor.org

Introduction to the Good Old Days: The Fourth of July

I found them in a Victorian box the cover decorated with miniature roses of days long ago.  I remember the day which was cold, wet and a time where I had nothing constructive to do.  Being an only child, there were days like this so I decided to play in our basement and look through old packing boxes of memorabilia.

It was my grandmother’s box and it looked like it had contained real flowers at once time.  The box was like the cover of a book and had a gold binding.  Scripted writing said “roses for you” and I wondered if my grandfather had given real roses from this box on a special occasion. But it wasn’t dark and disintegrating flowers that I found beneath the cover, but piles and piles of 5 by 7 sheets of yellowed newspaper clippings.  There had to be over a hundred comics and in each corner the label read “The Good Old Days by Erwin L. Hess.

These had been printed in the 1950’s but their black and white pictures depicted the world much younger, in fact, beginning at the turn of the century. The detail of each comic frame reminded me of scenes from perfect doll house rooms.  You could look at one drawing several times and still not see everything.  This shows a celebration of the Fourth of July in 1954 but it talks about remembering 1919; over a hundred years ago. That is why I have taken out the box many times through the years.

Today, begins the journey of the good old days series and I will post a story and comic to match a topic throughout the year. Of course, I will also being doing other writings about everything and anything. However, you will always know by the yellowed comic chosen with label and title, The Good Old Days.

There is an expression that says “one picture is worth a thousand words”.  As you view the comics in later posts, not only do you learn about the past and its progression, but you will experience the artful moments of family, canvases of adventure, scenes of the seasons and just plain enjoyment. You will realize the milestones of invention, the joys of house and home, entertainment in different forms and that unconditional love for family or friends has never changed from past to present.

Erwin L. Hess was an artist for all types of comics and began “The Good Old Days” series  in 1947.  Believe it or not, the comics were still being published until 1981.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s, he did artwork for comics such as Roy Rogers.  He had also illustrated several children’s books.  He had become quite popular for his creation of Captain Midnight , another newspaper comic strip.

Chicago Public Library, libraries and book mobiles

I have a distant memory of a bookmobile standing outside our school once though I do not remember selecting any books. However, in elementary school at Buckingham we did not have a library and the Chicago Public library came to visit us. We met in the gym and specific grade level books were placed in carts and disposable chairs were seated in front of the carts. When called, we could select books. I am not sure how many minutes or days we attended. We also had a storeroom that was situated in the gym and books were shelved from floor to ceiling. These were not our books but were leased from the Chicago Public Library and librarians would travel from school to school at that time.  In third grade, I remember getting ready to select books to take home and a lady from our main office was crying over the loud speaker announcing that our president, John F Kennedy had died. I remember looking at the clock that was located by the speaker; it was about 1:15. We did not pick out books that day because we were instructed to go home.

The Chicago Public Library (CPL) is the public library system that serves the City of Chicago in the U.S. state of Illinois. It consists of 80 locations, including a central library, two regional libraries, and branches distributed throughout the city’s 77 Community Areas.The American Library Association reports that the library holds 5,721,334 volumes, making it the 9th largest public library in the United States by volumes held, and the 30th largest academic or public library in the United States by volumes held. The Chicago Public Library is the second largest library system in Chicago by volumes held (the largest is the University of Chicago Library). The library is the second largest public library system in the Midwest, after the Detroit Public Library.

According to American Libraries, bookmobiles have a proud history of service dating back to the late 1850s, when a horse-drawn collection of books began making the rounds in Cumbria, England. Here in the United States, the first bookmobile is widely attributed to Mary Lemist Titcomb, a librarian in Washington County, Maryland, who in 1905 posited “Would not a Library Wagon, the outward and visible signs of the service for which the Library stood, do much more in cementing friendship?”

Today, bookmobiles still exist especially in rural areas where Internet access is not the best. Though the number has dropped, Aurora Public Library in the western suburbs loves their Bookmobile that visits schools on a three-week rotation throughout the school year. The Bookmobile also delivers materials requested from the collections at the Santori Library, Eola Road Branch, or West Branch.   In addition, the Bookmobile has community stops conveniently located throughout the city to serve customers of all age and is available for special events.

I am blessed that the Downers Grove Library is close to home and thankful for the Internet that I may reserve books. You can reserve books that have not been published yet and coming out sometime that year. I make sure I order a combination of old historical fiction and the latest bestsellers. That is one thing I cannot do…… finish one book without another waiting by my side.

You are never bored if you love to read.

National Best Friends Day on June 8

By Caryl Clem: 

Recovering from the Great Depression was a task that required Americans to join together and work hard for each other. The pleasures in life were limited, annual wages for the average family was $1,160.00. Over 1/3 of the movie cinema’s had closed.  The news featured real life stories of survival, and started public opinion polls to encourage the public responding to issues.  In 1935, Congress passed the Social Security Act. Another act during this year to build public confidence and trust, Congress passed a Best Friends Day on June 8th and Friendship Day for the first Sunday in August.  At the core of American values is the desire to respect each other and discover what we can share together.

Discovering the depths of friendship occurs naturally as children play together. As a kid, do you remember counting down the days to the arrival of the summer carnival? My favorite friend coached me into my first roller coaster ride. I felt fearless beside her, ready to try anything.  We screamed in unison during the thrilling ride. Excitedly, we quickly decided to get in line to buy another ticket.  Good times were magnified in her presence. When I felt disappointed or angry, she found a way to help me see a “brighter” side.  A few years later, she told me she was moving with her parents to another state.  A parting hug with tears in my eyes was the last memory. I did not realize what I had until she moved away.  I was 11 years old.

Through the years, having a best friend that understood my personality and emotions saved my sanity and provided someone to share the range of experiences in life.  You never feel alone when you have a best friend as songs on this theme prove.  I love to listen to Christina Aguilera’s, “I’ll Turn to You.”  She sums up in a few words what a best friend means. Time deepens your relationship. To me, Best Friends are like a fuel that helps us achieve our top performance, increase our mileage and stay on the road of life longer. Touch base with your Best Friend on June 8th and celebrate what you have shared together.

Last days of recess

I take a break on the wooden bench, reflecting during outdoor kindergarten recess, the last week of school. My…… how they have grown physically. The difference from the start of the year is uncanny. They have learned how to use their words and handle issues between them….less tears. Though sometimes the girls emotions are triggered out of nowhere, at a Grandma or Grandpa passing away over a year ago or losing their favorite pet. Some days are still just too long for those in kindergarten. However, they have learned about hands to self and not walking up the slide. Sometimes they fall with minor injury and dirty clothes, but they get back up, brush the dirt off and move on. Overall, they have come a long way.

One spring day at the school playground for me in the early sixties during second grade was not fun. A bully from our school was trapping some of the girls, including me, on a school step in front of our door outside that lead to the playground. I took a run for it and he began pulling on my skirt to stop me and it fell to my knees. A teacher at Buckingham school did see the event and he was taken to the Principal. His parents were called and I didn’t go to school for several days out of embarrassment. Finally, someone convinced me that the girls on the step wanted to be my best friend forever. I saved them, thus, becoming popular overnight.

My opinion of boys did improve for me on the sixth grade playground at Warren Junior High School when I was asked to go steady and wear his gold id bracelet. The bracelet was beautiful with his name elegantly engraved. This was a first and I was more interested in wearing the bracelet than the boy himself. I was popular, once again, among the girls and the boyfriend lasted two weeks.

For my children growing up in the 1990s, I don’t recall any significant events happening to them on the playground. Then again who knows? What I still don’t know may not hurt me or them. Maybe, I will ask them when I am in a silly mood.

I watch the girls on the swings now…five or six in a row…some trying to pump as high as the one next to them, surpassing others. Then I see her. I have written about the little one before. She was very tiny and younger than most with less experience in kindergarten when she began the school year. I pushed her most days on the swing or a friend in class helped. We tried to teach to her to push,many, many times, but no luck for months.

I looked at her face and I caught glimpses of what she would look like when she grew up…confident and breathtaking. This young woman smiled at me and her legs were pumping on the swing. Slowly, at first and then she began to swing. A look of surprise completed her features as she swung higher and higher; knowing her best was yet to come.

And so it ends…….. a wonderful year for me. Consequently, trusting in the true magic beginnings of growth, possibility and fulfillment for all of them. Will they remember? Probably not, but I will, right here in the written word especially if age-related problems take over. That is all that matters!

 

 

Thankful for music

It was in the beginning of the school year that the kindergarten students were exercising to a variety of music, a selection of songs from all eras, and suddenly Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd came on. They continued, without interruption, but I picked up my pace singing to myself as the substitute gym teacher just smiled. Over Halloween, Michael Jackson moved the children along in movement.

My own children remember me singing to a fake microphone…a hair brush, to be exact, while Whitney Houston played in the background. My daughter and I sang together one night and got caught by her brother and his friends walking in the door. He was ready to turn around and walk out….never to grace our lives again. He was in high school with free rent and food…he thought better of it.

Music has always made me smile and my collection is vast starting in the days of bubble gum rock such as Woman, Woman by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. From there in the late 1960’s/1970’s, we included popular Motown with the hits of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations as well as harder rock like Jethro Tull, The Who, Three Dog Night, Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago and the list goes on and on. I even tolerated some disco. I did play piano for many years and easy classical music along with show tunes, popular through the decades, were my best performances.

In many elementary classrooms today, teachers will select videos from Go Noodle, which promotes movement for kids and many have learned how to floss from Blazer. No, it is a dance. And then there is famous Fabio Moose and making purple soup! Now, many, not a great example of beautiful music. Oh my….I sound just like my mother when rock and roll hit the scene.

But our passionate music teacher always saves the day by introducing the kindergarten through second grade students to different forms of classical and shows them how to move through various tempos. Our class sees her twice a week, once on Friday afternoon so it is truly a blessing to leave the school with the true promise of music in my heart. Last week, I listened and watched the students learn how to move and freeze through the orchestrated arrangement of the Syncopated Clock by Leroy Anderson.

Oh, how I remember that song playing on my Mom’s radio by the Boston Pops orchestra, in the kitchen, back in the days when I was in elementary school! Oh yes, Mom..if you are listening….. the lifelike sounds of exceptional music are being introduced and played again everyday. Mom would be proud of the talented music teacher and her students!